Gospel Economics - "Justified"
By Russ Gressett
The book of Galatians has always been one of my favorite books in the bible. It’s a book that really displays Paul’s passion for the work of the cross and what it means to appropriate that work in our lives. This word “justified” or “justification” is a significant word he uses in this letter to a church that he dearly loves and wants to see mature along a proper path and belief system.
The understanding of how and why we are justified is something that all of us should be fully persuaded about. It is a powerful and liberating truth, and one that tends to slip away from us quickly. As with any revelation, after being received, it must be appropriated in our life so that it becomes a part of how we live on a daily basis. Otherwise, what good is it? Have you ever looked back and realized you had really not appropriated and applied some things that the Holy Spirit taught you in days, months and even years prior? Sadly, I have done that many times. Thanks be to God for His mercy … and for journaling so that revelations are not forgotten all together!
The revelation of “justified” is a true cornerstone to living a life of victory in Christ. If you are struggling, check yourself as it relates to where you stand with this revelation. Paul could not have been any clearer. We are justified by faith in Christ Jesus … not by the works of the law or by performing various traditions prescribed by man. Most of us have heard this truth before …”we are justified by faith in Christ Jesus” … but what does it mean? Here is some very telling scripture in Galatians that displays the severity with which Paul viewed a proper understanding of “justified”.
11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.
1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. 2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), 5 to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. …
11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
If you read Galatians over and over, you will begin to see that there are certain things that Paul states that pop out as being places where he draws a line in the sand and says “This truth will hold right here … it will not move … not even one inch. If you try to move it, I will call you on it. It is that important.” For example, Paul was adamant not to yield submission, not even for an hour, to the works of the law that compelled men toward bondage. He could see what tied men up because he knew the gospel and he also knew how men reacted to the law (having been extremely well trained in both).
It’s not that the works of the law are bad (they are not), but when the “works” produce a sense of self-justification based on performance of the law or of man’s traditions, then in effect we set aside the grace of God to take a different path toward what we see as justification unto righteousness. In our belief system, we substitute what we do for what He did (always a losing proposition). This is where “self-justifying” bondage takes hold of liberty and where religion takes hold of relationship in people’s lives. Paul said in effect, “I draw a line in the sand right here … I will not set aside the grace of God and insert my merit badges. I count all that as rubbish”.
Let’s not fool ourselves, we can gain a sense of being “justified” from our own efforts. It’s really a common and easy trap that we fall into. We can come to a point where we believe “I deserve it!” because of all the effort I have put forth, or the money I have given, or the time I have spent, the praying I have done, or the ministry I have accomplished, or the studying and meditating I have done, etc… All these things are great and needed, but why did we do them? We have to lose something to come to that place where we believe “I deserve it!” What is it that we have to lose? We have to lose our sight and understanding that we are justified by faith in Christ Jesus, not by all the “stuff” we do or have done. If we are trying to convince someone else we are justified, then we are trying to convince ourselves as well . This is precisely what Paul refused to do. This is precisely what Paul was hammering on the Galatians about. It’s what he was hammering on Peter about. It’s what he would probably hammer on us about today.
The Jews had a sense of “we deserve this and you don’t because …” It led to an attitude of prideful hierarchy and “self-justification”. This “self-justification” was a direct confrontation to justification by faith in Christ Jesus. Our justification has to be rooted and grounded in what Christ did in our place on the cross … period. There is no room for anything else in our belief system. Self-justification is absolutely not compatible with victorious Christian living. A mixture of the two is a recipe for “do-over” after “do-over”. Paul thought that Abraham was a real good example. Abraham tried to self perform and bring forth the child of promise in his own efforts (Ishmael), but had to do so with a bond woman, not Sarah. That was not God’s plan then … and it still isn’t today.
Paul decided firmly against self-justification and he absolutely would not stand for any other doctrine toward justification apart from faith in Christ Jesus. This is the only way he could truthfully make the statement he made in Galatians 2:20-21. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness (right standing) comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
Paul was fully convinced, fully persuaded about the grace of God in every situation … regardless of his own efforts. It was like he lived constantly with the reality of the cross and the reality of the empty tomb and Jesus’ sinless life and ministry at the forefront of his focused thought life. If there is one thing we can take from the letter he wrote to the Galatians it is that he was serious about his understanding of what had been suffered him to have freely … not of his own works. He understood it to be the key in his ability to finish the race God had called him to run (we can observe much of this in Philippians 3).
What about us? Are we walking with that same edge of conviction toward faith in Christ Jesus? Or, are we doing “religious stuff” to promote a sense of “I deserve it” in our own thinking about ourselves? Our persuasion toward justification by faith in Christ Jesus alone has to be personal to us just like it was to Paul. It has to be something more than just what we mentally ascend to. We have to come to a place of Galatians 2:20 ourselves.
In the Galatian church, Paul had his own offspring who were evidently now choosing to go back toward a justification based on “self” via performance of the law. Some other people had come in teaching this doctrine. He clearly was not happy about it and he made it plain to them. Paraphrasing, he basically said to them, “Hey, you think you know something about Judaism and the traditions of my Jewish fathers … or that these preachers coming in here know something about it? Well, I’m sure you have heard about and know what I used to be a professional at, huh? I was the cream of the crop when it came to the law and self justification, if you will. But when God separated me by His grace, His plan was not to plant me in the midst of this mixture you all have been hearing lately. He did not want me conferring with that flesh and blood. I’d had enough of that already. He wanted me separated. I did not even speak to the leaders such as Peter for 3 years. Then I spent a couple of weeks with him before heading off again for another 14 years! And, when I came back after 14 years, I didn’t preach some mixture to them of law and grace either. I laid out for them the gospel I was preaching plain and simple. In fact, when they heard what I was preaching, I guess they decided they needed to send some spies in to check us out. They evidently didn’t think we were “self-justifying” enough. I can assure you, we did not submit to their pressures toward self-justification … not even for one hour! Now you have to decide as well whether you are going to be justified in your belief system by what you do, or by what Jesus did. You have to draw a hard line on the inside. Choose the latter, and Galatians 2:20-21 will become true of you as well.”
This understanding of Paul’s is a main theme throughout the book of Galatians. Jesus took our place so we could take His place. But, we need to do our part and actually take His place in our belief system. Our part is to believe. John 6:29 tells us that, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” As I mentioned above, it is one thing to receive a revelation, but another thing to appropriate that revelation in our lives … daily. To keep the truth of that revelation before our eyes, meditating on it and confronting the areas in our own lives that are contrary, is paramount. It’s a fight of faith, a real battle. We are required to look past all of our failures and all of our successes and lean fully on the life, ministry and sacrifice of the Messiah of the ages and take His place … as perfect and justified.
This position was suffered us to have freely. We don’t bring glory to the Father by leaving that on the table and trying to earn it ourselves some other way. It does just the opposite in fact, it takes glory away from the Father when we try to do that. If we truly believe we are justified by faith in Christ Jesus as Paul did, we will act like what we believe is true of us. We will actually die by seeing ourselves crucified with Christ, letting Christ live in us. That does not produce a greasy grace … it produces power ... real power. The kind of power that overcomes this world, and through love, literally takes over.
Believe it! Regardless of the past, regardless of failures or successes, “You are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:7) Walk and believe according to that promise. The bible is abundantly clear. The bond woman and the son (fruit) of the bond woman which Abraham brought about in his own works shall not be heirs with the son of the free woman (Gal. 4:30-31). Did you get that? They will not be heirs together. There is no mixture. We are justified by faith in Christ Jesus and that’s it. It’s not part faith in Christ and part our own works. Build on that foundation rock alone. Do not put two legs of the chair on the rock and two legs on the sand because when you sit in it you will always be off balance ... never comfortable and secure.
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
The persuasion toward self-justification does not come from God. Stay on the high plateau of grace that does not believe that, and do not fall off of it. It would be a travesty for us to walk through life and have Christ profit us nothing. We can judge ourselves with simple “why” questions because the answers elaborate on motive (motive is a broadcast of our true belief). Do you ever catch yourself with a response to God of, “But Lord, why is this not flourishing. I have done this and that and the other …”. We nee to look beneath the surface of these type responses to God and check our motives.
If it is no longer we who are living but Christ living in us, then the motive for all our actions will be “outflow” of love toward others (Philippians 2). When all of our justification is grounded fully in the work of the cross, when that revelation is truly appropriated, we won’t seek to do anything for the purpose of self justification or self promotion or self anything. What is left is a motive of love toward others.
It’s like the change in life that occurs when you’ve married and start having kids. All of the sudden, it’s not all about us anymore, but we really didn’t even recognize that it had been all about us before the kids came. Now we freely choose to pour our life and love into them … but we become selfless and motivated in this direction because of our love for them. The same is to be true in what God births out of our lives. Love should propel us. That is true liberty … where love propels and love motivates. Keep this in mind as you read this:
13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
Let God do all the worrying about promotion and increase. We could not be justified in Christ if God were not “just” in the first place. So let Him handle all of that. He is faithful to finish in us what He started.
Listen to Paul’s closing remarks in the book:
14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.
The attitude Paul has in his closing remarks, to me, is just awesome. Honestly, it has stirred my prayer life up because I see so much in the background of this statement. There may be as much power in this one statement of his as in any statement in the entire bible. Paul had a platform of controversy that was centered around and on the name and person of Jesus Christ … Lord, Savior and Messiah of the ages. Think about that. What an awesome controversy to be on the right side of, huh?
He said, “… I will boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world”. Meaning, he understood that the work of the cross delivered the world into his hands as he would lay his life down for the world (become crucified with Christ). This is what the correct view of “justified” eventually produces in our belief system. The exciting thing is in the background of his statement. What did the first century Jew believe about the Messiah? That He would ride in and take over, run the Gentiles out, put the throne of David up, and rule and reign from then on, right? That is basically it in a nut shell. If you read the gospels you can see it time and again in the apostle’s anticipations, regardless of the fact that Jesus tells them numerous times he is going away etc… Those statements just go right over their heads it seems because they are more tuned in to thinking of the thrones on either side of His throne that they want to have as their own.
Well, His kingdom did come! However, His kingdom came originally to begin on the inside. They (and we) were justified spiritually and placed in right standing with God. His followers are to win by dying to themselves, not by fighting the Gentiles and physically taking over. His first coming and sacrifice was a victory for us to be restored spiritually so that we can freely walk as justified before Him … not based on ourselves, but based on Jesus’ perfect life as the spotless lamb of God. Jesus came and actually set that kingdom up and delivered it to us fully and completely. Now we are in position to take over the world, but from the foundation that God Himself operates off of … love. The world has been crucified to us! Man, that is powerful.
Paul was seeing this in his gospel revelation. He said as result, “the world has been crucified to me!” He had been justified by the work of the cross, positioned to carry out the plan of restoration now that actually will end up with Jesus physically ruling and reigning just as the first century Jew was expecting, only from a foundation of love as opposed to physical strength and physical war. That is awesome. Love is like the gun in a “gun vs. knife” fight. There is no better winning weapon. It’s just not what they were expecting in the first century. What about us? Is it what we are expecting?
So, here is my encouragement to all of us (including myself), we should daily be praying for a platform of controversy centered around the name and power of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the resurrected son of the Most High God. In a day and hour when every kind of controversy under the sun bombards the world’s population from every side, let’s seek a platform of controversy centered around the name of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of all the other controversies. I can rest in a controversy centered on Jesus … the rest of them seek to drain the very life out of me.
We live in a day and hour where communication and knowledge is almost instantaneous. The platform of controversy around the name and person of Jesus can ride on the developed wisdom of mankind and spread quickly like never before. I would also encourage this, get out of the “church box” in your thinking and let the Holy Spirit illuminate how He wants to do this in your daily life. There is something God has called you to that no one else in this world can accomplish like you can. You were wonderfully made to fulfill and accomplish a specific function in the Body that no one else can do like you can.
There are different kinds of miracles and manifestations of the Spirit coming forward in this hour that have never been recorded before in scripture or any where else. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all (1 Cor. 12). In this day and age, “all” can see things almost instantaneously all across this planet. The working of miracles and manifestations of the Spirit might as well be included in what “all” see see, huh?
Do not be naïve. God is not limited to the miracles already recorded in the bible. Don’t you believe it! It doesn’t have to be raising the dead or healing the blind. Let’s refuse to limit God. It could be a new invention that man cannot explain why it works … including the person to whom God sends the wisdom of the invention. The person wouldn’t need a patent in that case. In fact, they couldn’t own it, nor could a government. And what if it changed every industry known to man, or just one industry, or part of one industry ... doesn’t matter. What a controversy! “Well, it’s just the Lord Jesus that did this, and is doing this, I don’t know why it works. You try to make it work if you would like! The only reason I know that it works when we build it, and not when someone else builds it, is that Jesus told us how to make it and He has anointed it. Hey, I am just a dead man. It’s no longer I who live, but Christ in me. Its not Mohammed or Allah or Buddha or Joseph Smith … it’s Jesus. Makes sense though, huh? Look how it is helping everyone and solving problems just like Jesus did.” Subsequently, things such as this could arrest whole sections of the world system … and without greed, but rather, with love at the core. Man, what a controversy!
I am convinced that God is preparing miracles and manifestations of the Spirit such as this all over the globe right now. I for one am praying for a platform of controversy around the name of Jesus that will take back the strongholds in the world system and begin preparing this planet for the literal and physical reign of the King of kings. A controversy that will draw in kings to the Kingdom all over the planet. He is going to start sending the wisdom to the “Galatians 2:20 justified outflowers” that will begin to change operations over to how this planet will work in the millennial as a precursor to what is coming.
Paul said, “I will boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” There you have it. The kingdom on the inside (justification by faith in Christ Jesus) works its way to the kingdom on the outside, with love as the motivating factor. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)”. We work what is ours on the inside outward by dying. We lose and find out that we won.
I encourage us all to stir ourselves up in the understanding of “justified” … to believe what is true about us as a children of the Most High God. There is a prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, but it is in Christ Jesus. This prize is found on the plateau of Galatians 2:20. The platform of controversy is there as well. Paul spoke of these same issues to the Philippians in Ch 3. He forgot all that was behind him, the accomplishments and the failures. He counted it all as rubbish and pressed forward.
I want a platform of controversy centered around the name of Jesus. How about you? We have been justified to have it in Christ Jesus. The world has been crucified to us and is there for the taking. Paul’s Godly contentment that he speaks of in Philippians does not imply "without ambition". Paul said he learned to be content in whatever state he was in, yet in the next chapter he also said he pressed toward the mark of the high call of God in Christ Jesus. Content, yet pressing. It’s all in the motive. It is a restful place once we have died to that which is not of the kingdom on the inside.